April 2008

A tall stack of Swiss chocolate bars

I spent the last couple of weeks surrounded by chocolate bars. Oh, the temptation.

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_Nikujaga_, stewed potatoes with meat, is a staple of Japanese home cooking. It's filling and comforting, and appears quite frequently for dinner at our house. Recently though I've been making this vegan version more frequently, which is just as tasty as the meaty version. Thick fried tofu (atsuage) is the protein replacement, but it's not just there for it's nutritional benefits - I love the texture in a lot of dishes.

The recipe, plus some ideas on how to reform Japanese non-vegan recipes to make them vegan, after the jump.

Today is Green Day, and we're being bombarded with Green Day Sales, reminders as to how Green this company or the other is, and so on. It's a big topic nowadays.

I feel that the things that we can do as individuals is getting increasingly muddy. For a while it seemed like biofuels were a solution, but now the huge demand for plant-based fuels may be causing serious food shortages. Food miles and locavorism may not be as clear cut a solution either. Michael Pollan says we should start growing our own vegetables, but that's not possible for a lot of people, for space or time reasons.

Is there something relatively easy we can do? Sort of.

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(Skip the rambling and go directly to the poll)

The news is quite disturbing these days. Soaring food prices, food riots in Haiti, rice hoarding by some exporters of rice. Do you worry about rising food prices?

We eat a lot of rice at our house as you might expect, so news like rice prices hitting an all-time high today are a bit disturbing. We've already seen bread getting more expensive.

Poll: Do you worry about rising food prices, and how to deal with the situation?

Yes I worry a lot.
43% (318 votes)
I worry a little, not much.
45% (332 votes)
I don't worry about it all.
11% (79 votes)
Other
0% (3 votes)
Don't know
1% (4 votes)
Total votes: 736

Oh no, two YouTube posts in a row! Well on Saturday we went to an Indian restaurant in town, and invariably our favorite restaurant related video was brought up. Goodness Gracious Me (Wikipedia entry) was a half hour comedy sketch show that ran on BBC One and Two from 1998 to 2001. In case you have never heard of it and you're in the U.S., it was a little bit like the '90s comedy show In Living Color, except that the cast in GGM was almost all Asian (as in South Asian, or Indian), who also wrote all the sketches. It poked fun at many British and British-Asian things. One of the best routines was one that made fun of a typical outing to an Indian restaurant. This sketch is called Going Out for an English. I don't think you have to be Asian (as in South Asian) or British to find it funny...it's how a lot of people still behave, at any 'ethnic' restaurant!

"What is the Blandest Thing you have on the menu?"

Browsing around YouTube instead of working, as you do, today I found this little gem. It's a commercial for Ajinomoto Mayonnaise, by Juzo Itami, the late, great director of the best food movie ever, Tampopo:

The actor (not sure if it's Itami himself) is talking on the phone to a friend, when he gets hungry. Still remaining on the phone (and inexplicably on his back), he scoots over to the kitchen to get white bread, mayo and chirimenjako, little semi-dried fish. He tops it off with a fresh shiso leaf, and is in heaven. The dialogue is just like the dense, obsessive dialogue in Tampopo. I'll have to give that sandwich a try one day...it is odd enough that it has to appeal only to a really curious food person.

(The second commercial is cute yet odd, like many of the best Japanese commercials.)

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Notes on the Almost No-Knead Bread method, plus a recipe for bread with wine in the dough.

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It may surprise you to read this, but I do not actually miss living in Japan that much generally, except for my family and the food. My home territory there is the greater Tokyo area, and while Tokyo is a great metropolis, it's also unbearably congested and you are living on top of other people all the time. To borrow a term used for another place in the world, generally speaking it's a nice place to visit, but I'm not sure (given a choice) that I'd want to live there. But there are certain times of the year when I do wish I were there, and right now is one of them. It's cherry blossom time.

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